Meet Kellogg’s MBA Class Of 2019

Shizuka Matsumoto 

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I work in a Japanese insurance company and have pioneered the path for other young women in this industry.

Hometown: Nagoya, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a life-long athlete. I used to be a basketball player for nine years and devoted almost all of my time to my club activities. However, because of a severe knee injury, I had to have a 4-hour surgery, receive a 1-year rehabilitation, and give up all exercise, which made me feel very depressed. After university, I poured all my energy into work, but I became too exhausted. At that time, I began to think about returning to exercise again. Could I do it? Wearing gym clothes for the first time in years, I started walking fast. After a while, I cautiously tried running only a half mile. My knee did not hurt, so I ran a bit longer and faster each day. After several months, I reached 125 miles in one month. It gave me the confidence to complete a half marathon without stopping. The moment I crossed the finish line, I realized I was no longer broken.

Undergraduate School and Major: Waseda University – Education

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. – Deputy Manager in Claim Administration Department

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In July 2014, when a severe flood caused significant damage in Kyoto, I was sent to Kyoto to help launch a risk management office. My main duty was to train six temporary staff who had neither knowledge nor experience of insurance. At first, I tried to train all the staff equally by teaching the same task at the same time. However, since their learning speeds were completely different from each other, some staff could not catch up with others while others started to play with their smartphones. After two days, everything wasn’t going as planned, and I began to panic.

During the night, I considered what I could do to improve the situation. I thought if I were the temporary staff and had difficulty to keep up with others, I would feel strong pressure and the pressure would make my performance worse, especially in such an emergency situation. Therefore, I decided to change my strategy and take a more individualized approach based on each person’s abilities and strengths. For a person who could speak politely and softly, I made her the first phone contact, which required exceptional courtesy for frantic clients. Meanwhile, for a person who worked slowly but precisely, I allocated the payment task because it required absolute accuracy and it was the last step of the entire workflow, so her slow pace didn’t affect anyone else’s work.

As a result, with clear duties and responsibilities, my team members became confident in their roles and began acting more independently while asking me fewer questions. By the end of the week, the entire work flow actually started to flow.

From this experience, I learned the importance of providing what my team members need by considering their abilities and perspectives. Also, I learned that the decisions and actions I take as a leader can dramatically change the situation for the better.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Choose people who know you well as your recommenders.

In the entire application process, the only piece that is beyond your control is the letter of recommendation. However, the letter of recommendation is as important as your essays, because when your recommenders successfully describe your personality with detailed examples from different perspectives, the combination of your essays and the letters allows admissions committees to visualize who you are in a persuasive manner. Therefore, you should choose people who know you well as your recommenders, not based on their job titles, but based on the closeness with them, which is the only factor you can control to make the best letter of recommendation.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? A lot of team-based learning opportunities with diverse students was the key factor that led me to choose Kellogg. In my view, business school is a place where students learn from not only professors but also other students through both on-campus and off-campus activities. From this standpoint, the team-based learning policy and the diverse students at Kellogg seemed to be the best environment to maximize the value of my two years at business school. Also, the environment in Evanston, where most students live within walking distance from campus, enables students to reach out to each other easily.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  After my first year at Kellogg, I would like to be clearly conscious of the change in myself: having a global mindset, increasing self-awareness, and developing a spirit of teamwork. Also, I want to establish my own leadership style through the interaction with female leaders in the world.

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